By the 30th minute, the main question for Nashville SC fans was a fairly simple one: “will we see the new striker signing, Venezuelan Designated Player Jhonder Cadiz?*” The answer was similarly simple: yes.
The Boys in Gold received two impressive goals from Hany Mukhtar, the first on a lovely give-and-go with Abu Danladi and a tidy finish to the bottom corner, and, following a headed from Abu Danladi, Mukhtar further marked his return from minor injury with an incredible free-kick tally.
With a 3-0 lead before the engine was cool on the bus they arrived in, Nashville’s men managed to cruise to the finish. A panic sub in the 25th minute for the Dynamo may have settled things down – or perhaps Nashville’s feeling of being comfortable to cruise did it – but the rest was academic. Even an answer from the Dynamo’s Darwin Quintero provided limited drama in the late stages.
Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith – whose unconventional starting lineup included Taylor Washington, Brian Anunga, and Matt LaGrassa (all of whom plied their trade in USL last year), along with defender Jack Maher (who did his work at Indiana University) – comes away looking genius, even if most of the personnel decisions were forced. Thanks to an injury situation that knocked several regular contributors out of the lineup, a 3-4-3 formation was the name of the game. The counter-attack worked wonders against Houston’s leaky defense, and NSC never had to look back.
Cádiz made his debut with one golden chance that a heavy touch (natural after more than six months away from game action) spoiled, allowing Marko Marić to come off his line and collect the ball. First-game jitters for the first action in seven months can certainly be excused, no?
In the end, there was very little to be upset about, and the Boys in Gold will happily climb back into the playoff mix with the 3-1 victory and three points on the table. On 21 points, NSC is up to eighth in the table, with a game in-hand on the majority of the conference. The weekend off before hosting FC Dallas Tuesday allows NSC to rest, recuperate, and set up for a home stretch that could see the team earn an impressive seeding with home games in four of the final six. A 7:30 date with FC Dallas from Nissan Stadium is the beginning.
* Props to Nashville SC fans for explaining who the individual is on first reference. Thank you for your strict adherence to AP style, requiring no further exposition from me.
- 15′ NSH GOAL – 10 Hany Mukhtar (right foot), assisted by 7 Abu Danladi (throughball)
- 19′ NSH GOAL – 7 Abu Danladi (header), assisted by 23 Taylor Washington (left-footed cross)
- 22′ HOU Yellow card – 15 Maynor Figueroa (foul)
- 23′ NSH GOAL – 10 Hany Mukhtar (right-footed free kick from the top of the box), foul won by Mukhtar
- 25′ HOU Substitution – On 10 Tomás Martínez, off 24 Darwin Ceren
- 45’+1 Half time
- HT NSH Substitutions:
- On 21 Derrick Jones, off 10 Hany Mukhtar
- On 8 Randall Leal, off 7 Abu Danladi
- 66′ HOU Substitution – On 13 Christian Ramírez, off 11 Ariel Lassiter
- 67′ HOU Substitution – On 29 Sam Junqua, off 3 Adam Lundqvist
- 70′ NSH Substitutions:
- On 99 Jhonder Cadiz, off 29 Alex Muyl
- On 20 Aníbal Godoy, off 22 Matt Lagrassa
- 75′ HOU GOAL – 23 Darwin Quintero (right foot), assisted by 9 Mauro Manotas (throughball)
- 78′ HOU Substitution – On 12 Niko Hansen, off 5 Aljaz Struna
- 82′ HOU Yellow card – 10 Tomás Martínez (foul)
- 85′ NSH Substitution – On 55 Brayan Beckeles, off 18 Jack Maher
- 86′ NSH Yellow card – 55 Brayan Beckeles (foul)
- 90’+3 Full time
Jack Maher photo courtesy Major League Soccer. Haircut courtesy Brayan Beckeles